House Majority Leader: 'I Do Not Support' Senate Fiscal Cliff Measure

January 1, 2013 08:44 AM

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GOP leaders point to lack of spending cuts as a major concern

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House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) told his conference he is flatly opposed to the Senate-passed fiscal cliff bill without more spending cuts.

"I do not support the bill," Cantor told reporters after the first of two meetings among House Republicans. He left open whether GOP lawmakers would seek to amend the measure with new spending cuts and send it back to the Senate, saying, "We are looking for the best path forward and no decisions have been made."

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) did not express opposition or support, but conducted a two-hour conference meeting as an open forum, members said. Sources say Boehner and other Republicans noted the lack of spending cuts in the Senate fiscal cliff package that was approved early Tuesday morning by a vote of 89-8.


Rep. Steve LaTourette (R-Ohio) said there were two schools of thought in the Republican meeting, "One school is that OK, you live to fight another day and you pass this and come back and use the other things as leverage in the spring." The other is that sequestration was a downpayment for debt reduction, and that lawmakers should take on debt reduction now. "There's a lot of discontentment in the room at this point."


Spokesmen for Boehner and Cantor issued an unusual joint statement after the meeting, saying there was "universal concern among members" about the Senate bill. "The Speaker and Leader laid out options to the members and listened to feedback," Boehner spokesman Brendan Buck and Cantor spokesman Rory Cooper said. "The lack of spending cuts in the Senate bill was a universal concern amongst members in today’s meeting. Conversations with members will continue throughout the afternoon on the path forward."


Boehner told his conference that he was "shocked" that so many Senate Republicans voted for the bill, but he would not indicate how he felt personally about the direction the House should move in.


Boehner in another closed-door meeting presented GOP lawmakers with two options. The first option would be to add spending cuts to the Senate-passed bill, vote on that and send it back to the Senate. GOP leaders will begin to count whether there is enough support for this approach. If there are enough GOP votes to pass this approach, the House would amend the fiscal cliff bill and send it back to the Senate. But Boehner and Cantor both cautioned lawmakers about the risks in such a strategy, saying there is no guarantee the Senate would take up an amended bill. If not, the fallback position would be to bring the Senate-bill up as it exists, vote on it and seek to win approval for it.


Also likely adding to House GOP wariness was Congressional Budget Office estimates released that showed the fiscal cliff compromise that the Senate sent to the House would add $3.971 trillion to the deficit over the next 10 years, primarily by continuing tax cuts that otherwise would have expired at the end of 2012. Provisions related to revenue in the measure (HR 8) would account for $3.639 trillion of the deficit increase between 2013 and 2022. Additional spending in the bill, some of it related to tax policy, would add $332 billion in red ink.


"This is really the first time I have seen an opposition between the two leaders on something so consequential," Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-Kan.) said. "I was pretty clear the Speaker said we'll do what you want, maybe we'll do it, and [Cantor] said nope, we've got to have spending cuts."


If the House were to amend the legislation and pass it, the Senate would need to reconsider it again and it is unclear if they would pass a modified plan after such a strong vote early Jan. 1 for the original one.


Also complicating matters is that the 112th Congress is coming to a close and if any changes are made or are to be made, it might not happen until the 113th Congress is sworn in at noon ET Jan. 3. "There is some concern about that but there's also always an attitude that they sent it over here and that doesn't mean we need to accept it in its certainty," Cole said. Boehner "made it very clear that we have options in that regard."


Of major concern is the two-month delay in the $109 billion cuts to defense and non-defense spending. The $24 billion delay is partially paid for by new revenue gained by allowing more people to convert retirement accounts to Roth IRAs. The GOP wants the sequester replaced with spending cuts alone.


"Some of the tax extenders (in the Senate-passed package) could be adjusted," said Rep. Darrell Issa (D-Calif.) on CNN when asked where some savings could come about.


House Republicans are also unhappy about a small cost-of-living pay raise that federal workers are in line to receive at the end of March. Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa of California is pressing for House passage of a bill (HR 6726) that would extend the current federal pay freeze through the end of the year, blocking the 0.5 percent adjustment President Barack Obama authorized in a Dec. 27 executive order. Although the legislation promoted by Issa on Tuesday is expected to enjoy widespread support among House Republicans, its prospects are not good in the Democratic-controlled Senate.


Issa said Obama’s move would "add about $11 billion to the deficit by the stroke of a pen."


Obama exercised authority under the current stopgap spending law (PL 112-175) that is funding federal programs through March 27. The law allows the president to authorize a pay raise for most federal employees effective in the first pay period after the spending law expires.



NOTE: This column is copyrighted material, therefore reproduction or retransmission is prohibited under U.S. copyright laws.






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